Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers

Delicious Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers gruel.

By Daavpuke, Posted 30 Dec 2013

It’s great to even see some anime localizations for franchises outside of the immediate mainstream sphere. For Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers, however, it’s not certain that mere fandom alone is enough to keep it afloat, nor is that really a service for either side. While ever competent, this fighting game is as repetitive as its cartoon counterpart, for better or worse.

Saint Seiya, Brave Soldiers, PS3, Fighting, Anime, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots
Admit it; at least it looks pretty.

At first glance, this brawler has the right setup to become quite the captivating feature, with eye-catching character models. Anyone in the game is sculpted with a mixture of smoothly outlined cel-shading with shiny armor attached, for a blend between reality and fiction, making them “real” cartoons of sorts. Fluid animations and breakneck speeds hammer in this sophisticated style, aided by timely use of post-processing elements to glare away rough spots. Depth in this vivid anime design may be the most prominent element in the game, but it’s one hell of an immersive starting block. If only levels were less vacant, the crumbling backgrounds would seem more than just filler in standard arenas.

Similar things can’t be said about the story, though Brave Soldiers is generous in its serving of three sagas from the Saint Seiya series. Starting at the Gold sanctuary, our heroes will also try to topple the gods themselves by the end. Sadly, only the first chapter is a true masterpiece of highly dramatic pieces with a logical conclusion, while others devolve into less credibility. There is nearly no premise to the Poseidon threat and Hades, while led in, reaches too far into ethereal concepts to really stay engaging. At some point characters die and revive within minutes, making any sacrifice or drama crumble. More troublesome than that, major plot segments are shouted in Japanese during gameplay sessions. It’s a valiant effort to break the flow of combat, but dialog is impossible to follow while trying to punch opponents into another realm.

Saint Seiya, Brave Soldiers, PS3, Fighting, Anime, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots

Combat, within the first layer, is a rapid revolving of a few dynamics. With just a few button presses, it’s possible to string simple combos together with either all light attacks, stronger strikes or a combination of both. Difference is marked in how that animation unfolds, between lengthy vertical or horizontal lunges. Since no time is wasted on complexity, all thought can be spent on pattern recognition, making fights more about precision than speed, even if pacing itself can differ by only a split second.  It’s easy to learn and yet has enough subtlety to pose some hardship towards becoming excellent at it.

For more elaborate moves, a Cosmo gauge can use its energy to infuse attacks with power. This all-purpose bar is accessed for flashy specials, boosted bursts or even a lengthy Big Bang attack that drains nearly all stock. As with most flurries, this comes with a quick cinematic adding some punch to the impact. It’s also possible to append some of these blows to ongoing combos, which will quickly find its way in the rulebook, since regular moves do almost no damage. Depending on the champion, these distinctions have unique range, effects and so on. Even if move sets aren’t as exotic, each brawler is packed with their own dexterous feats. That’s something. Finding out what tricks can be done when has its own alluring quality to it. For even more potency, a Seventh Sense can be awakened, glowing with the added power it yields.

Saint Seiya, Brave Soldiers, PS3, Fighting, Anime, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots

Still, the thick of it is that these auxiliary mechanisms aren’t nearly enough to upset the repetition factor entrenched in Brave Soldiers. Everything is repetition. Repetitiveness is its job. Battles always follow the same rhythm. Guard for close threats or charge Cosmo when in the clear, then trigger an attack and repeat. This one-two can and will be the main line in every bout, exacerbated by more favorable combos wiping away others. That boils down to one set of buttons, pressed in succession time and again. Its boring, static conversations outside of events follow that pattern as well. Interludes present the impossible challenge, a first victory brings on the higher tier of that opponent and then the mystified enemy is dealt with, usually by some magical third party. Already, this implausible narrative is hard to follow without illustration, but droning it in certainly doesn’t help. Nothing ever changes; that’s a tough pill to swallow, even for those fully in line with the mechanisms.

Saint Seiya, Brave Soldiers, PS3, Fighting, Anime, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots

This brings with it that its simplicity, when repeated as often, doesn’t line up with the challenge of the game. Combat is a breeze to master if it’s required to redo hundreds of times, meaning that past the first few bouts, any trial is just a pastime, not an obstacle. Muscle memory can be a downside like that. Input becomes almost reflexive instinct, making this design too shallow to stay relevant for long.

Balance is equally poor, since characters seem to only be built around their premise and not weighed against each other. This results in only a handful of champions standing out, since their range is much higher than others. Everyone can make use of the same, simple tools, but only some can also apply those from much further away. Do the math.

Saint Seiya, Brave Soldiers, PS3, Fighting, Anime, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots
Don't worry, it's less confusing than it looks.

Additional game modes try to throw off this model, but it just isn’t enough to destroy that giant, facilitating core. Some rounds can be done without guarding or center themselves on downing opponents; one is as ridiculous as being won by the first strike. It’s cute, sure, but the dynamic remains the same. Orbs can be collected to further customize characters, but since this enhancement is only available in one segregated mode, its impact is insignificant to become an incentive.

Online play follows a similar, though slightly nuanced model, due to human opponents being able to opt for illogically inferior moves, just to mess with the rhythm. Being able to spectate fights in progress is a great way to figure out exactly who these troublemakers are, to once more level the field towards mediocrity.  Multiplayer, however, would be the saving grace, since any change is a blessing here. Unfortunately, only players of the same region need apply, since anything outside of that results in atrocious delays that cripple bouts.

One step forward, three steps back; that's the motto for Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers. Where it welcomes its crowd with accessible simplicity, it kills its attached gameplay elements by streamlining too much of it into one generic blob. It’s serviceable and in no one way flawed, but so close to the median that it may as well cast off anything else it tries to achieve with it. This one has been blended into a tasteless paste. It’s food, it’s nutritious, but it’s certainly not exciting.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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  • I'll have to agree with the score. This game fails in almost every department. Except for it looks a little polished. Saint Seiya has seen better days.
    Posted Dec 30, 2013


General Information

Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): Namco Bandai Games
Developer(s): Dimps
Genres: Fighting
Themes: Versus Fighting
Release Date: 2013-11-26

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